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Scenes from a Climate Strike

Pictures and sounds: An up-close look at the annual march for climate justice, Fridays for Future

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Montreal events roundup for September 2022

Five events that won’t break the bank.

Septembers in Montreal are known for pleasant weather and the nonstop events that occur during the entire month.

The best part about living in this city is that whatever you’re into, there’s surely an event for you. 

Here are five events that you should check out this month.

First on the list is the World Press Photo Exhibition, for all the shutterbugs out there. Currently underway at the Bonsecours Market in the Old Port, this event launched on Aug. 31 and runs until Oct. 2. 

Among the photographs on display is the winner of the World Press Photo of the Year 2022 — Amber Bracken’s Kamloops Residential School. General admission for the exhibition is $15.

If you want a change in scenery, visit the Gardens of Light at the Montreal Botanical Gardens from Sept. 2 until Oct. 31. Here you can witness nature in all its glory right in front of your eyes. 

You can take a walk through the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations gardens and admire the lanterns that line them. The price of this event ranges from $11 to $22.

Next up, calling all tattoo lovers! The Montreal Art Tattoo Show is taking place at the Windsor Station from Sept. 16 – 18. The event brings tattoo artists from all over the world together. Interested visitors can book appointments directly with the artists through Instagram or Facebook. The general entrance fee is $25.

The 18th edition of the Montreal International Black Film Festival is taking place from Sept. 20 – 25 in cinemas across the Quartier des spectacles, near Place-des-Arts. This showcase is the only officially bilingual Black film festival of its kind in North America. Information regarding different venues and prices can be found on the event’s website.

Finally, for something truly unique, visit the MAPP_MTL festival, kicking off on Sept. 21 and wrapping up on Sept. 25. This event is completely free and will take place in Mile End and the Quartier des spectacles. Expect performances by various artists, like VJ SUAVE. This duo from Brazil, had the idea of putting a projector in their bicycle and as they pedal, their creations appear on the wall. They will be performing on Sept. 17.


The fate of our homes

Reflections on Gordon Matta Clark’s Rough Cuts and Outtakes

As usual, I was arriving late, not stylishly late, just expectedly late, as is expected of me. I have gotten better at this, and I had real justifications for it. I was swinging by from the FASA general meeting which happened to coincide with the vernissage of Rough Cuts and Outtakes, a collection of Gordon Matta Clark’s work exhibited by Hila Peleg, but by a couple of minutes.

So, as I was outside of the Canadian Centre of Architecture (CCA), I started to freak out a bit. The whole entrance was completely desolate, except for a pair of young boys who were kicking a football around and telling each other to go f*ck themselves. The buildings impressive white facade dwarfed them, making it feel even lonelier.

Considering this was the opening of an exhibition, I had expected at least a couple of stragglers waiting outside, having cigarettes or whatever people waiting for shows do – and considering I was a mere 10 minutes off it didn’t seem like an impossibility. I entered the reception lobby and greet the ticket sellers. Embarrassed by my tardiness, I hesitated at first but asked if the exhibit opened the following day, thinking I was a day off. They assured me that no, I was there at the right time and that the speaker had began, I just had to turn to the left. While I was momentarily relieved, I was still sent on a scramble down the long empty corridors of the CCA, accompanied only by fake plaster corinth pillars and victorian decor.

The speakers had begun, I could see from the far most right corner of the amphitheatre. It was dark and impossible to see if there were any seats left. An usher assured me there were seats but at the leftmost corner of the room, right at the front. I still could not see anything. I crossed the back row and stopped, seeing there was a cameraman aiming down the catwalk towards my expected seat. The usher finds this unacceptable, comes to me, and asks me what’s up. I said that everything was alright I just didn’t want to get in front of the camera and that I was happy to remain standing, but she wouldn’t have that and dragged me promptly to an empty seat.

When I finally settled, it was not just my cheeks that were relieved, but I had skipped out on the terribly boring introduction and hadn’t missed any of the juicy stuff. Hila Peleg, the curator of the exhibition, was only then walking towards the podium. Simultaneously, a large grey projection screen slowly scroll downwards. The lights on the stage went off and a projection flickered to life as grainy images of a sad looking and dilapidated house appeared. These were the cuts and extras from Clark’s famous work Splitting (1974), an intervention piece in which Clark and collaborators vertically sawed their way through the entirety of a New Jersey suburban residency that had been abandoned after residents were evicted in the wake of an upcoming urban renewal project.

Except again, this wasn’t Splitting proper. These were outtakes, the waning moments before the cutting began as the camera explores masses of personal objects strewn about by the yard of the residence while Clark and his collaborators crawl along the residence roof making measurements. The clips are few, damaged, and collaged together. Their only identifiable feature was that they are all images of the same house. But perhaps these off-hand shots are more defining and revealing as to the nature of Clark’s work than his mystical and anonymous spatial carvings will ever appear to the uninspired viewer. The great truth of his works lies in the old mattress, left to right in the cold sun. It speaks of people evicted and their homes and neighborhoods destroyed,and perhaps in their vernacular simplicity, they embody their energy and troubles better than any house ever could.

The city of Englewood, where the film shooting took place, is composed of mostly working class neighborhoods. The area has an almost equal number of African American residents to white of the city population. The particular neighborhood where Splitting was done was mostly of African American descent, according to census readings, hence it shouldn’t be surprising then to see how exclusionary social policies ended up mostly clearing out the neighborhood.

Other snippets of Clark’s work drew some of the same conclusions in different ways and forms, but it all came down to the same thing. Has architecture failed us?

This is the same question that resonates from the abandoned clutter of household items to the tired mistreated structures that star in Clark’s work. This is an amusingly loaded question coming from an ex-architecture student, a heated discourse that is a mixture of both personal feelings of shame and maybe relief.

I love architecture, don’t get me wrong. I love looking at buildings and losing myself in their mysterious contours and repetitions, but my question aims more towards the general policy of most architecture in the 21st century. Undoubtedly, construction is linked with urban planning, but for something meant to be a force of beauty and social cohesion, architecture usually comes down to money and time (as most things sadly). A surrounding rhetoric has been that of speedy cheap construction.

In a vain pursuit of grandiosity and efficiency, much has been overlooked. Splittings’ few, second-long outtakes capture this in the refuse pile, pulling our attention away from the building by refocusing on the original subjects, the inhabitants. Despite all its ambition, architecture and to that extent construction is about making spaces that promote the health and prosperity of people. While they are definitely important, maybe the lofty ideals architecture claims to promote are utopian delusions. Through his life, Clark criticized established architectural practices,most notingly with his group Anarchitecture. In its manifesto and ideology, Matta rejected the orderliness and efficiency of modern cities, and celebrated the disorder of densely packed inner city life. I believe this celebration can be felt in those veering shots of the forgotten personal articles. The structures that are supposed to keep us warm and safe are bargaining chips that can be tossed at any moment with little regard for the tiny beings that inhabit them, much less for their few personal belongings. Conical Intersect (1975) is another display that shows buildings in pain, mutilated and left for dead, which isn’t too far a cry from the people evicted from those very structures, and left out in the cold.

Additionally Clark displayed a longing interest for ethnography and, in particular, archeology. Some of the secondary material that will be shown in January of next year will include a great deal of the photographs he took during his trips to South America. From the snippets shown, these include the gloomy images of Inca and Mesoamerican relics.The importance of these is that constant interest in people, their customs, vestments and the role that they play or represent in the imagined spaces left by their ancestors. But this is nothing new, there has always been a profound interest in ruins by poets, writers and artists. From biblical descriptions of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and their damning  implications, the fantastic imaginings of the members of the mostly italian capricci movement in the 16th century, to the apocalyptic prophesying of european artists in the inter and post war period. There has been a historical shift in the portrayal of ruins, from one of mystical and nostalgic allure to one of foreshadowing of destruction, ironic considering the fate of most of Clark’s work.

Perhaps the haunting beauty of contorted shapes and spaces is the promise for narrative,and ultimately, human connection. We search tirelessly old sites and tombs to see that timeless connection between us and our ancestors, to see our humanity echoed generation through generation. Ruins, for this reason, could almost be seen as universal places of worship. But these places are perhaps disappearing faster than we realize, or more accurately, less future ruins are being produced.

Toronto-based architect Brandon Donnelly, and Canadian/American architect, professor and writer Witold Rybczynski, both commented in architectural blogs on the shortening lifespan of buildings in our day and age.

Concrete, steel, and glass, for all their scale, are a lot less durable than one might imagine. Projects built even 60 years ago require major renovations that can come to be several times more expensive than the original costs at their conception.

Put this next to the impressive basilicas of the renaissance, the pyramids or the temples of Teotihuacan that have lasted for hundreds to thousands of years. Now, it is simply cheaper to knock down ugly buildings that we make for whatever necessary reason. For the community of Englewood, it was urban renewal. In Beauburg, Paris, a facelift was ‘needed’ around the then anticipated Centre Pompidou. And constantly a problem that arises is that there was a lack of foresight. Useless or unneeded structure are built, that have little consideration for local communities and necessities. For example, one only has to look at the many failed housing projects in the US (Pruitt Igoe, Cabrini Green), Chinese ghost cities, or Venezuela’s Mission Vivenda. Perhaps the buildings in question were not the most beautiful or impressive. Perhaps they weren’t the most economically efficient use of space, nor the greatest investment. But perhaps that also speaks of a culture that isn’t building things meant to last. The human element is trampled, again and again.

There are still historical societies remembered through the preservation of their architectural structures today, but is there any concern for the preservation of our present or future structures, or will rebuilding every forthcoming day reach the point where history ceases to exist? And to that, what can be said about us, the tenants of these badly built structures. Are we to remain prisoners of badly constructed homes or should we demand better quality construction meant to foster better social equality?

The CCA is open from  Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Thursdays, during which they are open until 9 p.m. Admission is free for students any day of the week. For more information visit their website.


Photos by Annita Parish


A more humanist look at the Syrian conflict

More than just a war, the Syrian Eyes of the World exhibition takes a look at the people who are affected

The Syrian Eyes of the World exhibition, featuring portraits of Syrians accompanied by a caption that shares the image’s story, opened on Sept. 20 at the Bibliothèque du Boisé. Its goal is to shed light on the Syrian people and their diaspora, from a perspective unique from that of the Western media which focuses primarily on the ongoing conflict in the country.

It is a worldwide project involving Syrian photographers from around the world, including Canada, Syria, parts of Europe and in the Middle East. The project was launched in partnership with La Maison de la Syrie, a non-governmental organization promoting Syrian culture in Quebec.

“The project came from the urge of saying something about Syria and Syrians other than the war,” said visual artist and Concordia alumna, Madonna Adib, who is one of twelve photographers involved in the project. “For the past five, six years, we only hear about the war in Syria, but we never hear about the human side,” she said. The exhibition does not speak of war, of chemical weapons or the number of casualties—it speaks of individuals, their stories and what they have to say to the world.

“We asked people questions, apart from politics or religion, as this is the main thing that people are fighting about in Syria,” said Adib. “[The subjects] just talked about themselves, their stories, about anything they would like to share with the world. Anyway, people don’t talk about politics or religion, because they’re just fed up with that.”

According to Adib, some people were wary about taking part in the project—for fear of taking a side in the ongoing conflict. “It was an essential point for this project to be neutral, and it doesn’t take any side in anything. It’s just a space to talk about yourself, and to tell the world things that the news doesn’t,” she said. “Basically, we just want to show the individual side of Syrians, to let them express themselves as individuals—not groups of people who are getting bombed, or risk getting bombed or dying.”

A native of Damascus, Syria, Adib also has a personal take on the project. She said photographing her mother particularly moved her. “I really loved what she said. It really touches me, because I know how their life was in Syria before the war and the change that happened after the war,” she said. “I asked her, ‘What would you like to say to life?’ She answered, ‘You did us wrong.’”

This is a portrait that Syrian photographer Madonna Adib took of her mother. The exhibition tries to shed light on Syrians from a perspective other than war and conflict. Photo by Madonna Adib

The power of the subjects’ words, paired with their black and white portraits, constitute the greatest quality of the exhibition. Each picture tells a different tale about a different person, even though they all relate to the same topic: migration. “There’s no one that can connect to migration unless they’ve lived it. You try to connect, you try to feel the other’s feelings, but it never works,” said Adib. “At least, through this project, we’re trying to put a spotlight on something that people in Western countries don’t know about, which is good for them.”

“Everyone is special,” Adib said, when asked which of her subjects stood out the most. “When you start making conversation with a person, you hear their story. It becomes special because every story is unique, everyone has their own story, and you connect with those stories in a different way.”

Syrian Eyes of the World is an ever-growing project, and has major plans for expansion. “We’re now working on a documentary with Parabola Films [based] in Montreal, in which we’re following six characters in their daily life,” Adib said. “I don’t think it’s going to be done before three years, or four years, maybe, but we’re working hard on it.”

The exhibition is open until Oct. 14 at the Bibliothèque du Boisé, as well as the Bibliothèque du Vieux-Saint-Laurent. Admission is free. Afterwards, the exhibition will be touring seven libraries within the city of Montreal, until summer 2017.


Photos: Montreal students protest tuition hikes outside Stock Exchange

Photos by Navneet Pall

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